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  • Writer's pictureDahlia Foundation

How do alcohol use disorders affect people?

While some research suggests that small amounts of alcohol may have beneficial cardiovascular effects, there is widespread agreement that heavier drinking can lead to health problems.

Short-term effects include memory loss, hangovers, and blackouts. Long-term problems associated with heavy drinking include stomach ailments, heart problems, cancer, brain damage, serious memory loss and liver cirrhosis. Heavy drinkers also markedly increase their chances of dying from automobile accidents, homicide, and suicide. Although men are much more likely than women to develop alcoholism, women's health suffers more, even at lower levels of consumption.

Drinking problems also have a very negative impact on mental health. Alcohol abuse and alcoholism can worsen existing conditions such as depression or induce new problems such as serious memory loss, depression or anxiety.

Alcohol problems don't just hurt the drinker. Spouses and children of heavy drinkers may face family violence; children may suffer physical and sexual abuse and neglect and develop psychological problems. Women who drink during pregnancy run a serious risk of damaging their fetuses. Relatives, friends and strangers can be injured or killed in alcohol-related accidents and assaults.

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